ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey on Friday welcomed a US missile strike on a Syrian regime airbase in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack, calling for a no-fly zone in the country to prevent further bloodshed.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the strike against the Sharyat airbase in Homs, northern Syria, was “a positive response” to the “war crimes” of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
“In order to prevent similar massacres from happening again, it is necessary to enforce a no-fly zone and create safe zones in Syria without further delay,” he added in a statement.
He said the destruction of Sharyat airbase marked “an important step to ensure that chemical and conventional attacks against the civilian population do not go unpunished.”
US President Donald Trump ordered the military strike on the base in retaliation for what he said was a “very barbaric attack” when dozens were killed early on Tuesday in Khan Sheikhun in Idlib, northwestern Syria.
The Turkish health ministry on Thursday said initial analysis suggested victims were exposed to the deadly nerve agent sarin.
Kalin said the incident in Idlib demonstrated the regime’s “complete disregard” for a political transition and efforts to enforce a ceasefire agreed late last year and sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran.
Earlier, the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Turkey believed that “the Assad regime must be punished completely in the international arena” in comments quoted by state-run news agency Anadolu.
He described the strikes against the base as “significant” and “meaningful” after civilians had been targeted in the suspected chemical weapons attack.
“The Assad regime’s barbarism must be stopped at once,” Kurtulmus said, saying the peace process should hasten a “fair” and “lasting” peace for the people.
“I hope that this United States operation will contribute to securing peace.”
Turkey has repeatedly called for Assad to go while Russia and Iran remain the president’s most important allies in the more than six-year war.
In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said Ankara would give its “full support to steps taken to ensure that similar crimes do not go unpunished and (that there is) accountability”.